April 14, 2018

five goals for spring...

spring goals | yourwishcake.com
This last week had me thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish before summertime arrives and our schedule changes a bit (yes, even homeschoolers without an enormous amount of extracurriculars end up having a different summer schedule!). Resolutions shouldn't only be made in January, right? Right. So, I decided it might be nice to get a handful of specific goals written down for each season, to help guide my focus and hold me a bit more accountable.

This month, I put together a list of five goals for springtime:

1. Always have fresh flowers on the table. My mom was in town for a visit last month, and she bought me flowers that came in a mason jar, and it pretty much made my life complete. I never, ever buy flowers (and my husband is a gem of a man, but he has bought me flowers like five times in our entire marriage). I realized after I had that bouquet on our table for a solid month (I would pick out flowers as they died, but the thing held on for a remarkable amount of time) that something as simple as flowers on the table did wonders for my mood. Isn't that weird? It would legitimately make me happy every time I saw it. So, my goal now is to always have flowers on the table, even when it's an awkward mishmash of clippings from our front porch, as seen above.

2. Continue building relationships with our neighbors. Even though we've lived here over a year, it hasn't been until recently that we've been able to socialize a bit more with some of the people who live in our community. The girls play outside every afternoon, so I have started having regular visits with several of our neighbors while the girls run around with new friends. We've never really gotten to know our neighbors well at any of the other places we've lived (apparently that's fairly common here in Southern California) and it has felt good to feel a sense of community with the people around us. I must confess: I'm awful at being the person who initiates conversations (introvert problems) but I find that I'm always so grateful for them when they actually happen.

3. Buy something for our home. I am so bad at spending money. That totally sounds like some sort of "humble brag"—and in some ways I know it benefits our financial situation, especially because I almost never splurge on anything—but it also means that even when I find a good deal on something, or see something in Target that I absolutely adore, I usually talk myself out of spending the money because to me, impulse buys equal irresponsible spending. I have to remind myself that if I do see the perfect gray shelf or a set of large wooden picture frames or a pillow in my absolute favorite color, that odds are it will be something we will have for years to come, and to just buy it already. There are still so many blank walls in our home, and I'm currently searching for a detailed world map, a large chalkboard, and some frames to decorate the wall along our staircase...

4. Start waking up early (almost) every morning. Verity continues to be a sleep champion/magic baby, and I'm more rested now that I've been in ages. I'm a mere shadow of the woman I once was. (In a good way.) I actually find myself staying up until 10PM without having a borderline panic attack about how little sleep I'm going to get. (Hallelujah and good night.) I'd love to start waking up before the girls again, the way I did a couple years ago, because even having twenty minutes of time to myself before the day truly begins does wonders for my overall attitude and mindset. I don't want to be overly ambitious and plan morning workouts and devotions and blog writing and planning-the-day and being dressed and ready before the older girls are up. (Sometimes when I start a new routine I need to take a chill pill. True story.) But I'd like to at least plan on having a cup of coffee to myself, in addition to one other thing—even if that one thing is finishing a couple chapters of my current read.

5. Be consistent with Spanish lessons. I recently started daily Spanish lessons through the Duolingo app, and even though I've missed a few days here and there, I've been surprisingly consistent! (The app has free language lessons with a beautiful design and hardly any ads. I totally recommend it!) With homeschooling, we are currently learning about Mexico and Mexican culture/history, and I thought it would be the perfect time for me to learn more of a language I've wanted to study since moving here. One of our neighbors has been quizzing Eisley, as well, and offered to help teach her new words and phrases a few times a week. (This is the same older woman who coos in Spanish over Verity in a way that always makes her burst into the biggest baby-grins. I love it.)

Here's to new (and hopefully achievable) goals!

Further reading: beginning of the year thoughts

April 10, 2018

thoughts on motherhood...

motherhood | yourwishcake.com
I don't think anyone can be fully prepared for motherhood at all, let alone the changes that come from adding another (and another) child to your family. I sometimes think back to when I had my first daughter and my whole life changed completely and I felt like all I did was live and breathe this tiny little baby all the live-long day. Now, as a mother of three, I look back on those days with a certain fondness because goodness. I didn't know how much free time I had. And how easy it actually was back then.

Ah, yes. Hindsight is a tricky thing. (I have a feeling I'll be thinking the same sorts of things when I have a house full of teenage girls. But I digress.)

This time around, I struggled a lot with postpartum emotions after the baby was born. I honestly didn't experience any sort of baby blues after my first two girls were born. I had a 6+ hour ugly-cry in the hospital a couple days after Eisley was born, and I definitely battled a bit of postpartum anxiety when she was a couple months old, but nothing akin to baby blues. It was even easier with Cora. But this time? It was hard. 

A couple weeks after Verity was born, I had a day that I basically cried all day long. I probably didn't look like I was crying (because I was so afraid of stressing out my older two kids) but it was definitely silent-tears-streaming-down-my-face, on the cusp of bawling my head off from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. It all felt like too much. And I felt like I was failing everybody. And even thinking about how I was failing everybody made me feel guilty. I was so grateful that my husband was able to take five weeks of paternity leave, and he'd take the older girls on all these adventures so I could have the house to myself and nap with the baby. But as it turned out, I didn't nap, and I cleaned a lot because I felt like I didn't deserve to nap because there was so much that needed to get done. (I really couldn't win.)

I am thankful it didn't last long, and I returned to my regular self after about a month. But having experienced my head telling me things that absolutely weren't true was a very sobering thing. I have much more empathy now for women who continue to struggle beyond those wildly hormonal and emotional first weeks with a new baby. When you know what you're thinking isn't accurate, but you keep thinking it anyway, it kind of does a number on you.

I am a terrible mom. No, I'm not. I am not giving enough to my other two children, now that there is a baby that needs me constantly. Yes, I am giving them enough, and they know they are loved. I'm failing literally everybody. That's actually not possible when you think about it. I need to take care of everything; there is no time to rest. Just allow yourself to sit on the couch for a half-hour and eat three cookies and let the floors get dusty...it'll be fine, I swear. I'm all alone and nobody understands what this feels like. Oh, self, now you know this one is absolutely untrue.

At this point, nearly three months in, the dust has long settled and my husband has been back at work (traveling periodically, nonetheless) and things feel remarkably okay. More than okay. Now, things actually feel easier than I thought they would this early on. Now, I feel our routine is back and I can breathe again. It has been interesting, though...parenting three very different children at three very different ages and stages. 

Eisley is several months away from turning 7 and is an absolute delight, but also extremely challenging right now. I had no idea that 6 1/2 was such a difficult age until I mentioned it to some friends and they were all, "Yeeeeeah. It's rough." (It reminds me of how 3 1/2 was so unexpectedly difficult with her and I thought I was the only one, until I finally admitted how hard it was and, again, everyone was all. "Yeeeeeah. It's the worst.") She is so imaginative and creative and enthusiastic. Her emotional highs are just as intense as her lows, and it's impressive how quickly she can go from one extreme to another. (I have no idea where she gets this from. EXCEPT THAT I DO.) For the last couple months, her impulse control has gone out the window and it seems like all day long I am repeating the following words: "Eisley! You know you shouldn't do that!" All day. I kid you not. But she is also incredibly sensitive right now. She feels things very strongly. She's learning a lot about being a friend and what it feels like to be rejected or accepted, and how to work through new experiences that don't always feel so good.

So, like tonight, I sometimes let her stay up late to try a new recipe for mug cake and read an extra chapter of Harry Potter aloud and ask her questions about her day. Things that make her feel seen and loved and important.

Cora is a fireball at 2 1/2. What can I even say about this girl? She recently started having conversations with imaginary friends, and the other day I asked who she was talking to and she shrugged and said, "My friends, Lala and Gaga." Like I should have known. Several months ago, she realized she didn't have to take orders from Eisley and things have been a bit of a battle ever since. She is definitely a little sneaky, but luckily she gives me this very recognizable look when she's headed off to do something she shouldn't, so I'm usually able to figure things out pretty quickly. (Or when she's gone upstairs and it's been super quiet for a while, I know she has crawled onto the top bunk and is quietly raiding Eisley's basket of off-limit toys.) I have yet to figure out a way of disciplining her that works, as she is the child who thinks it's hilarious when I'm angry and using my Very Serious Angry Mom Voice. She literally giggles like it's the best game of her life. And then I end up hauling her flailing, giggling, stubborn-toddler body upstairs for time-out in a way that would make gentle parenting advocates judge me with their judging eyes.

But then there are days, like today, when she wakes up in the morning, and I go to greet her, telling her that we're having chocolate chip pancakes with bacon for breakfast. She absolutely lights up, throws her arms around me and breathlessly exclaims, "You the best mom ever!" And those are the words that keep me going.

Verity will soon be 3 months old, and she is officially my magical unicorn baby. The baby I didn't know could exist. She's been sleeping like a champ for over a month now, and there have been a few nights when she literally slept all night. I mean, how is this even possible? Between Eisley and Cora, I did not sleep for three out of the last six years. THREE YEARS OF NOT SLEEPING. Is it any wonder that I find gray hairs not only on my head but also in my eyebrows? Or that I once forgot my child's middle name at a doctor's appointment? Or that my wildest fantasy has long been to sleep in a hotel room all by myself for an entire night? (Sorry, Jay.) Maybe I will start reverse-aging due to all the sleep I'm getting now. One can hope. In any case, even when she's being fussy, she is still a remarkably easy baby, so I have no complaints. She smiles and coos and sticks her tongue out and is completely enamored with her big sisters. (The feelings are mutual.) I can't help but wonder what her personality will be like as she gets older.

There are times I can't help but scoop her up and forget the laundry or dishes or the older two girls hollering at each other upstairs, and just breathe in her baby smell and brush my lips across her soft baby hair and feel completely and utterly grateful for her being here.

I often feel so imperfect as a mother, but these days I realize that it's okay. We're not meant to be. We're not expected to be. It's okay to have hard days, hard weeks, hard months. Because we also have good days, weeks, months. So, I carry on and forgive (both myself and my children) and try to find moments of delight and adventure and peace within these days I find myself in. They're good ones, after all.

Further reading: peace, finally

April 6, 2018

five favorite picture books...

picture books we love | yourwishcake.com
It's been a while since I've shared a handful of picture book favorites, so this post is definitely overdue! Considering we are at the library no less than twice a week (each time with a stack so large I may need to invest in an actual wagon or a very glamorous rolling-backpack for these hauls), I've come across so many fantastic books that I can't help but recommend. As always, I will share books that I think are both beautifully written and illustrated, and also those I think are worthy enough to grace your own bookshelves at home or become the perfect bookish gift for a child in your life.

Onward!

five favorite picture books | yourwishcake.com

1. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca — I've been recommending this book ever since we first picked it up from the library last month! I've been on a non-fiction picture book kick for the last year or so (there are so many incredible ones out there, and I'll have to share a longer list sometime soon!). This particular one is a fantastic way to introduce children to ways the world may be experienced by someone with autism. It's a beautiful story about Dr. Temple Grandin, starting from her childhood all the way through to the present—including all her creative inventions and her unique way of seeing the world. We need to be raising kids with more compassion and understanding for every person they may encounter in life, and I think this is a must-read for every family. A little awareness goes such a long way.

2. Once Upon a World board books — We don't get many board books these days, but sometimes Cora still wants to grab a few from the library. We recently came across a handful of these and they immediately caught my eye, both because of the gorgeous, colorful illustrations, and also the unique take on these familiar princess tales. Each of these books features a fairy tale story that we all know, but each is set in a different country. For instance, Rapunzel is set in India, Snow White is set in Japan, and Cinderella is set in Mexico. I'd actually love to own a set of these books, because I'm a big fan of non-Disney princess stories (not that I don't love me some Disney, but when it comes to books, I prefer something a little more substantial!) and they're also just beautiful to look at. It's also worth noting that although these are board books, the stories are still wordy enough to catch the attention of older siblings (Eisley read through all the ones we checked out and loved them as much as Cora!).

3. Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole — The black and white illustrations in this wordless picture book are so detailed and delightful, and both of my older girls loved poring over each page, searching intently for an adventuring cat named Spot. It is a very sweet story and so beautifully done! I kind of wish I could get a copy just to frame some of the pages. (Someday we will have a home with a library filled with framed book pages featuring my favorite illustrations. Mark my words.)

4. Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers — Oliver Jeffers can do no wrong by me with his quirky stories and colorful illustrations. This book is no exception! It's a rather large book filled with small stories for all the letters of the alphabet, many of them intertwining together as you go through the pages. Very sweet, very fun, absolutely beautiful. The is one I'd love to give one of the girls at some point to have in our own library because we could read it again and again, and still find something new within the pages every time.

5. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney — This book is my favorite kind to read to my daughters. It is a story with so much heart and I absolutely want to live within the pages. The story centers around a woman who longs to travel the world, to live in a house by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful. I love that it is based on a real woman who scattered seeds everywhere she went and absolutely made the world a more beautiful place. I like giving my daughters a reminder that the things you do in life don't have to be seen by everyone to be worth something or to make a difference.

Now it's your turn: What has been the best children's book you've read recently?

Further reading: five more favorite picture books

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